Luke Gundersen

Following a two-month search that attracted more than 50 applicants, the village of Brookfield will have a new recreation director come Jan. 9. Late last month, Village Manager Timothy Wiberg announced he had hired Luke Gundersen, who for the past seven years has served as recreation event coordinator for the village of Shorewood.

Gundersen, who graduated from the University of St. Francis with a bachelor’s degree in recreation, sport and tourism management, worked for two years as athletic coordinator for the Manhattan Park District in that far south suburb before moving on to Shorewood.

“I am impressed with Luke’s municipal recreation experience, and throughout his interview process here he articulated how passionate he was about public service and fiscal responsibility,” Wiberg said in a press release.

Gundersen will report directly to Assistant Village Manager Stevie Ferrari, who served as Brookfield’s recreation director from 2018 until October 2022, when she was elevated to her present position following the departure of George Issakoo.

During her four years as recreation director, Ferrari oversaw a department that dramatically expanded programming, including the creation of the before- and after-school STARS program.

Revenue generated by the Department of Parks & Recreation in 2018 amounted to a little more than $150,000. In four years, the department projected revenues of nearly $730,000. 

While the village board did earmark more funding for recreation staff after Ferrari’s arrival, it has just three full-time employees, including the director, Recreation Supervisor Cindy Yelich and Early Childhood Recreation Supervisor Kelly Picton.

Since being promoted to assistant village manager last October, Ferrari has also continued to oversee the recreation department. Her input was instrumental in hiring Gundersen.

“His municipal experience was well-received by us,” said Ferrari in a phone interview. “Within a park district’s revenue structure, there’s a lot more resources for facilities and revenues. With a municipal department you’re working through the [village’s] general [operating] fund, so you do tend to be more creative when it comes to using resources and you work side by side with other departments.”

In Shorewood, Gundersen also worked in a small municipal department of two people and had no director.

“We did everything,” said Gundersen in a phone interview. “We planned all of the events – about 35 to 40 per year – and I ran the summer camp.”

 The summer camp operation required Gundersen to work out intergovernmental agreements with school districts to gain use of their facilities for program – like Brookfield does. He also has experience applying for open space grants and overseeing park redevelopment projects in addition to coordinating dozens of special events annually.

While his job title in Shorewood might not have indicated it, said Ferrari, “He was doing all of the duties of a supervisor without the title.”

As director of Brookfield’s recreation department, Gundersen will be focusing on beefing up its marketing and sponsorship efforts, providing more in-house sports league programming and senior programming.

The village is also wrapping up the first phase of its community rec center feasibility study, an initiative it launched in September.

“What we did find is that Brookfield’s demographic is really primed for utilizing a community center,” Ferrari said.

Gundersen’s starting annual salary is $90,000.